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Social media: Will they stand the test of time?

The Green Bay Packers walloped the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 on January 15, 1967, in what was to become known as Super Bowl I.

Only about 62,000 spectators bought tickets at $12 a pop max at the spacious Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – the only time in almost half a century the game has failed to sell out, leaving greater Los Angeles blacked out. Some 60 million people watched the game on TV, mediocre by today’s international standards, but impressive at the time.

The Packers players earned $15,000 each for their efforts; the Chiefs, half that. A one-minute commercial sold for $85,000 or less.

It was, frankly, a curiosity.

Until Broadway Joe Namath brought superstar power to the game two years later, few saw even a hint of the game’s potential. But it’s stood the test of time.

And yes, there were computers in 1967, although their future impact on our world was a matter of esoteric debate, and almost universally underestimated (save for the animators of “The Jetsons,” perhaps).

Computers were, frankly, a curiosity.

But today, this electronic curiosity has evolved into a medium that can tie billions of people into the Super Bowl – and event that stands with the World Series, World Cup and the NCAA Final Four as sports icons in a digitized Wide World of Sports.

Flash forward to 2011: Mercedes-Benz and Audi have announced major social-media campaigns tied to the 2011 Super Bowl, Mercedes offering two new cars to fans competing in a “Twitter-Fueled Race” – even issuing a casting call for social-media users wanting to participate.

Audi was a bit more traditional in its approach, but both automarkers clearly view their initiatives as a “strategic leap of faith” in committing to social media.

The game’s 30-second TV slots this year are selling for $3 million each. All 68 slots have sold out.

In the words of that World Series icon, Casey Stengel, “Who’da thunk it?!”

But a word of caution: Social media may just be another fad – like hula hoops or Cabbage Patch Kids … or like skateboards, Superman, crosswords and 3-D movies. A passing fancy, like pet rocks … or bubble gum, ice cream cones and hot dogs.

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s possible that social media trend has staying power. It may not be bubble gum, but neither does it look like a pet rock, so it’s probably prudent to step along with the crowd into social media.

“The ones that don’t do it will be left behind,” says Pam Moore, a social-media consultant. But, she adds, the tweets and Facebook “likes” that Super Bowl marketers all are glomming onto today may seem archaic in just a few short years. You can look at how far MySpace to see how far they can drop.

The abject lesson? Simple. It’s tough to tell the difference between a fad and a trend. Like a surfer sizing up the Pacific Ocean, be cautious about entering into the newest and latest “fad” in marketing. Instead, create your social media strategy based on your business objectives. Here are six easy steps to get started:

  1. Identify your objectives: Figure out why you’re getting on the social media bandwagon and what you want to accomplish with it. This step is absolutely necessary if you plan to measure ROI.
  2. Identify your target audience: What segment of customers are you targeting with your social media? What is important to them?
  3. Find where the conversations are happening: Are your customers social? Where are they gathering or connecting online? What social media channels do they favor?
  4. Join the conversations: Listen to what your customers are talking about and join the conversation by adding value.
  5. Integrate social media into your existing communications: Social media is not going to replace your overall marketing strategy; it is another layer of the communication and influence process. It can facilitate more honest dialogues and stronger loyalty among customers and prospects.
  6. Monitor and measure: Based on your business objectives, create measurement metrics for success.